WHAT IS ETHICS?1
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that focuses on moral principles and codes of conduct (Wood, 2010, p.27).
Ethics is the study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person (Tubbs & Moss, 2005, p.226).
Ethics is the study of those values that relate to our moral conduct, including questions of good and evil, right and wrong, and moral responsibility (Fail, 2008).
Consequence Based Theories
Consequentialist theories claim the morality of an action depends only on its consequences. It considers the result of actions to determine morality, not principles or rules. Types of consequentialist theories:
• Ethical Egoism – each person should act in their own self interests.
• Act Utilitarianism - each person should act in a way that produces the greatest happiness for everyone.
• Rule Utilitarianism - each person should follow rules that tend to produce the greatest happiness for everyone.
Weaknesses of consequential theories:
• Requires a person to predict the future and all possible outcomes to know consequences.
• Can easily be used to justify questionable actions (the ends justify the means).
Rule Based Theories
Rule based theories, also known as Non-consequentialist, claim that the morality of an action depends on principles or other factors that are not related to consequences.
Types of non-consequentialist theories:
• Divine command - people should obey the laws of God, and the questions become… whose God and whose interpretations?
1 Adapted from Russell Fail’s What Is Ethics? Power Point Presentation, Kaplan University, 2008
• Kant’s Categorical Imperative- man should act in a way that the actions would be deemed universal law, and also that the morality of the act be measured by the intent to obey universal laws rather than by the consequences of the action(s) (Tubbs & Moss (2000).
Weaknesses of rule based theories
• Divine Command requires a high degree of...